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Archive for the ‘denominations’ Category

We are all one body, we have the same Spirit, and we have all been called to the same glorious future.
– Ephesians 4:4 (NLT)

One body…

Paul later states in the following verses that there is only one Lord, faith, baptism and God and Father.  That’s simple.  That’s it.

We are not called to become a divided body of Christ.  We are to live as a unified body of Christ.  That was what Chuck Colson was speaking of in his book The Body.  Rick Warren said so when he stated in The Purpose Driven Church: “It takes all kinds of churches to reach all kinds of people.” 

We are one body.  We are to exist together as a single, united force of faith.  We are to go forward in faith together in His name.

Let’s stop getting trivial with traditions.  Let’s keep others from guarding the gates and doorways, keeping people away from the house of faith and playing God.  Let’s be mindful of what we have allowed to divide us and work on building bridges back to the unity.

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Living as His Body

The Body4 For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. 5 There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 and one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all.
– Ephesians 4:4-6 (NLT)

The believers are the collective and universal body of Christ.  Each believer serves as part of the body.  We, as believers in Christ, make up the body of Christ.  We are one body, gathered together in His name in one faith.

Apostle Paul and the Earliest ChurchesPaul wrote that “there is one body… just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future.” The collective body of believers have a common goal, that one glorious hope for the future.  In seeking that common goal, believers come together on common ground.  The prime example of this is not the believers having all things in common.  The prime example of this is the gathering of believers in Antioch.

19 Now those who were scattered after the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to no one but the Jews only. 20 But some of them were men from Cyprus and Cyrene, who, when they had come to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists, preaching the Lord Jesus. 21 And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord.
– Acts 11:19-21 (NKJV)
Body of Christ a Reality:
The body of Christ lives together based on:
  • Common Belief: The confession of Jesus as the Christ, the Anointed One
  • Common Bond: The connection between each believers is the one Spirit that indwells each believer and inhabits each local body of believers gathered together in His name
We are to live as His body, the church open and operating in His name and by His Spirit.
Live as His body.
TM Bishop - Body Piercing Saved My Life - Sticker / Decal

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 Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?- Amos 3:3 (NKJV)

We should be in agreement.

Our calling as Christians reveals that we at least agree on our belief in Christ as Lord and Savior.  Perhaps, if we took it more seriously or earnestly, we would spend a lot more of our time seeking what we agree upon rather than what makes us different from one another.  It would downplay our denominational differences.  It would allow us to host inter-denominational interchanges, the type of activities that would have believers gather together in His name.

We should walk in agreement.  The prophet was speaking of progress as believers in recognition of God’s clarion call through the prophet.  Doesn’t God speak? Couldn’t He use a man like Amos, one who was not a prophet’s son and who came from among the herds? If we believe and understand what we believe, we will agree that God can use whoever He chooses to use.

Let’s walk together.  Let’s start by what we agree upon as believers.  We can work the rest out as we walk in agreement.

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There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.- Galatians 3:28 (NLT)
There are some who consider their congregations “open,” but their reality is something entirely different.  However, some of the churches that come out of a background of putting the protest in Protestant find it difficult to include all others when those others support gay marriage, abortion or legalized marijuana.  These churches are open in the name of Jesus, but they must remain mindful to stick to the way of Jesus.

I used to live near a Methodist church that prominently posted this slogan on its marquee and advertisements.   Open Hearts… Open Minds… Open Doors… Open what? I keep wondering just how “open” they are.  Are there doors more open than their hearts and minds? I should hope not, seeing as how I know some well-meaning Methodists and Wesleyans.

Our churches need to intensify their inclusion.  America has its first African-American president in Barak Obama.  Now, as we go forward in faith, let us open up and crank up our inclusion of others. 

Let us become:

  • More Intense with Inclusion
  • More Intentional with Inclusion
  • More Inclusive with Inclusion

Does your church invest in supporting underserved community members with necessary programs? Is your church campus a safe haven for at-risk youth and abused women and their families? Can those in recovery walk into your church without the shadow of shame? Can those returning from prison and jail enter your congregation without being judged and condemned all over again?

I love the story of Rick Warren and Saddleback Church’s origin as told in the Purpose Driven Church.  Warren shares that the ministries at Saddleback were developed based upon the needs of the people who came to the church.  He developed ministries that helped meeting the needs of people who came to them and who lived around them. 

As you help others get better and to live differently, they become the spokespeople for what is possible within your church.  Ex-addicts go back and share the Word with other addicts who struggle with addiction.  Former gang members and drug dealers spread the word on the streets of what your church has done for them since they met Jesus at your church’s altar.  Your job? Keep intensifying your inclusion.  Touch lives like never before.  Make a difference in the lives of people who attend your worship services and who live around and near your church.  Remain open to innovative and inventive ways to invite and include people to be part of the family since we are all one in Christ Jesus.

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Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. 
Malachi 3:8 (KJV)
 
 
Recently, I took some serious devotional and Bible study time to read Malachi. That’s a major undertaking when you consider what the Lord has to say through Malachi and to whom He is directing His words. The primary points of the biblical book are an accusation and warning to God’s people to act like people of God. Whew! That’s heavy stuff, even for seminary students, Sunday school teachers and simple, set apart and sanctified saints.
 
 
Old school Baptists sum up the prophetic book with quasi-biblical phrases such as: robbing God, opening up the windows of heaven, and bring all of the tithes into the storehouse.  These are certainly not verbatim and definitely not theologically sound when used in convenient contextual arenas.  Tithers hold fast to Malachi chapter 3, primarily verses 8-10, but this has nothing to do with introducing or ordaining the tithe.  It is about trusting God and upholding the practice of tithing as means of seeing that God is true to His promises
 
 
People have been utilizing such passages of the Bible to bully and beat up those who do not tithe for years.  Unfortunately, this is due to a failure to maintain a contextual view of the biblical passage and explore an expository and exhaustive explanation of the text in light of audience, intent and culture and history.  Some things may be lost in translation, but one has to keep in mind what type of Bible or study tools one uses.  A paraphrase will not give you an accurate translation since its main goal is to translate thought for thought, while a literal translation seeks to translate and interpret word for word. 
 
 
I would also like to add a warning about commentaries, especially when one is seeking a clear understanding of the text and its surrounding passages.  Understand what type of tool you have and how to use it.  The root word of commentary is comment.  When you read Matthew Henry’s commentary, it is just a comment by Matthew Henry on that book of the Bible or the entire Bible itself.  What you get is an insight into that particular person’s views on it.  If i use Matthew Henry, I am limited to the depths of Matthew Henry and the prevailing theology of his time.  Ever hear about the Dead Sea Scrolls? Were they discovered before or after Mathew Henry’s commentary? How about Martin Luther’s? Commentary usage requires careful steps to avoid slippery slopes.
 
 
Clearly, once one reads Malachi as an entire study, it becomes as glaring as Jeremiah or Isaiah, even Hosea.  The message is about God’s relationship with His people.  God desires a restored relationship with His people, but if they keep going the way that they have been going there’s no redemption or reconciliation.  God has to stop the nonsense and put the challenge before the people about testing and trying Him to see if He is faithful in delivering His promises.

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Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour.
Ecclesiastes 4:9 (KJV)

Meetings seem to be run-of-the-mill and dull when they simply are not in the right order for the right purpose. I addressed the idea of purpose in “Meetings Versus Ministry” some time ago, but I want to address some simple meeting “must-haves.” These are the things that your meetings, whether for regularly-scheduled ministry, strategic planning with your board, or volunteer orientation, simply cannot do without as you move forward. By no means am I saying that this is an exhaustive list, but it is a list of some essentials for nearly every type of meeting.

  • Agenda: Previously emailed out to attendees; printed; Topics with time frame for each one
  • Sign-In Sheet: Keep track of who attends meeting; gather contact information
  • Minutes (From the Previous Meeting): Essential if people need to vote on approval; previously emailed out to attendees; printed and stapled or clipped together with supporting documents, i.e. grant applications/ proposals for review, reports, etc.
  • Reports: Previously emailed out to attendees; printed reports with supportive documents

Please note: The type of meeting you host will determine other essentials, i.e. whiteboard and dry erase markers, laptop and projector, and so on. Keep in mind that the longer you are meeting will dictate a greater need for water and refreshments or an actual meal. If you need people to work through lunch, either provide a break period for them to grab something nearby at the break room/cafeteria or be prepared to have lunch served. In most cases, you have to know your audience and your purpose for meeting in order to identify what else you may need.

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“Double Life” is a poem I created and appears in my first work of poetry called Reflections of a Believer.  I was inspired by books like Chuck Colson’s The Body and C.H. Spurgeon’s The Soulwinner.  I recently discovered a copy of the Body at a Goodwill while out of town and was led to post this in its entirety here.  Be blessed.

Double Life

I have some things that I need to admit before the congregation at this time.  First and foremost, I have to admit that I have been living a double life.  No, I am not committed to more than one woman.  And, rest assured, I am not in any relationship with another man.  My double life has to do with church. I have been practicing more than one denomination for quite a while now and it’s becoming increasingly hard to hide it.

As many of you know, I have been Baptist most of my Christian walk.  However, I was taken in when I realized that I have been acting as Jehovah’s Witness because I have witnessed His power in my life.  I am also Unitarian because I believed in the unity and oneness of the body of Christ when I read Paul’s words about the unity of body in Ephesians.  Yet, I must still admit that I am a practicing Methodist because I believe that there is a method to the madness that we live through day by day as saints in His name.  I had sworn to secrecy my Pentecostal beliefs, for I truly believe that the Spirit fell upon men on the day of Pentecost in order to birth the early church.  I keep trying to follow the apostles’ doctrine, so some have felt inclined to label me an Apostolic.  I have had this burning within me to roll with being led by the Spirit, so I have also been called a Holy Roller as well.

It has been difficult trying to hide behind the cloak of secrecy, denying who I truly am all of these years.  I have lied to myself and others, never revealing the full boldness that salvation in Jesus Christ has given me.  I pray that God can forgive and allow me one more chance to live out who He has called me to be in Christ Jesus.  I pray that my faith will allow me to take advantage of the opportunities and set aside all of the obstacles in order to truly experience the freedom of His salvation.

I would pray that you would forgive me as well, but I have sought the Lord with a pure heart in the mercy and grace that He supplies me.  I would ask for you not to cast looks of condemnation upon me. Please don’t shower me with words of sorrow and pity when you encounter me.  I would say for you to not call me any derogatory denominational names like ‘Jesus Freak’ or ‘Born-Again Believer’ (Are those really derogatory?).  I merely pray that God allows you to see me as He sees you, one to be loved by Him with a love so deep that it caused Him to give His Son as a sacrifice for all of our multitudes of sins.  I simply pray that you will join me in the unity of the baptism of His Spirit that is refreshed by the overflowing fountain of His shed blood.

I pray this in His name, the name above every name in heaven and in earth, by which all men may be saved: JESUS!!  Yes, this is my prayer for forgiveness, not forgetfulness.  This is my prayer of openness, not closed-mindedness.  I pray this prayer in the power of him who empowers me to stand here today and admit that I’ve been doing more than two-timing.  I admit it before the whole assembly.  I’ve been living a double life.

Amen to that.

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